In a post-jitters attempt to salvage his position as prime-minister-in-waiting, David Cameron has shored up the party faithful by pushing tax breaks for married couples to the centre of his burgeoning campaign. Meanwhile party activists, bloggers and candidates are demanding a tougher — and, crucially, louder — line on immigration.
Ominously for the Tories, this echoes the “core vote” strategy pursued by Michael Howard and William Hague in the 2005 and 2001 elections, a strategy to which Cameron appears to be returning.
He gives interviews in which he portrays himself as a Tony Blair figure, unwilling to turn back from “modernisation”. But in truth, a pattern has emerged showing that when the going gets tough, Cameron reverts to his — and his party’s comfort zone.
Last year the head of the Demos think tank, Richard Reeves, wrote an article in the Observer headlined: “The Tories will win, so how progressive are they really?” Pretty progressive, he concluded.
Perhaps it is the reality, that Cameron’s Conservatives are far from “progressive” on the policies which count — on tax and spend, on the family — that helps explain the recent Tory downturn in the polls.